The U.S. military is sharing intelligence with the French military about Islamic State targets inside the terror group’s de-facto headquarters in Raqqa, Syria, and has pledged to broaden such cooperation, a senior American defense official told Fox News on Monday.
The official said the exchange included intelligence from coalition forces on “a couple of big targets that the French had been wanting to hit” and started Saturday night -- about 24 hours after terror attacks linked to the group killed at least 129 people in Paris.
France began air strikes on Sunday against the Islamic State in Syria, a stronghold for the militant group.
“The coalition gave them 100 percent support,” a U.S. military source said. “We will continue with a combination of coalition targets and specific French requested targets for the foreseeable future. … We are having good results.”
On the same day of the French air strikes, the U.S. military destroyed 116 ISIS fuel trucks Sunday in Abu Kamal, Syria in the Euphrates River basin near the Syrian-Iraq border, according to the latest strike report from the U.S. Central Command released Monday.
A military official with knowledge of the strikes said that recently-arrived U.S. Air Force A-10 Warthogs from Incirlik Air Base, in Turkey, carried out the strikes on the fuel farm.
The official said previously the fuel trucks were off limits to U.S. military strike aircraft. When asked if the Paris attacks would bring about a change in the U.S. military’s rules of engagement, the official said that the truck drivers were warned first before the bombs fell.
“We dropped leaflets, warning the drivers to scatter,” said an official who had been briefed on the strike. “Next we strafed the area [with 30mm cannons] before the dropping bombs” from the warthogs.
The official said separately that F-15E Strike Eagles, which arrived to Incirlik late last week, participated in their first strikes against the Islamic State over the weekend, separate from the attack against the fuel farm.
President Obama said publicly Monday at an international summit in Turkey that the United States and France would share such information.
The military source also said revenue-producing targets like oil refineries remain a prime target, under the coalition effort known as Operation Tidal Wave II.
The operation was announced Friday in a Pentagon briefing as a means to attack ISIS oil infrastructure in eastern Syria. The original Operation Tidal Wave was a U.S. operation against Nazi oil infrastructure in World War II.
When asked how much help the U.S. gave the French military in the weekend strikes, a separate U.S. official answered, “a lot.”
“The targets had been in the works, and we accelerated the strikes due to great interest from the French after the attacks,” said the U.S. official.
The French Ministry of Defense said 10 of its Rafale fighter jets dropped 20 bombs on strategic targets inside Raqqa.
The French strikes were launched from bases in the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, according to a statement from the French military.
This week, the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is expected to depart midweek from Toulon and sail to the Persian Gulf to begin strikes against ISIS.
In Norfolk, the USS Harry S. Truman strike group -- which includes the guided-missile cruiser the USS Anzio, Navy destroyers and other escort ships -- will get underway later Monday, part of a previously scheduled deployment to the Middle East.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter spoke to his French counterpart, Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian, twice over the weekend, pledging to “further intensify our close cooperation” against ISIS, according to statements from the Pentagon.
Over the weekend, the U.S. military sent another shipment of small arms ammunition to the Syrian Arab Coalition, driven to them from Erbil, in Kurdish Iraq.